01.26.17

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy On The Nomination Of Nikki Haley To Be United States Ambassador To The United Nations

Mr. President, it has become fashionable, particularly among supporters of the Trump Administration, to accuse the United Nations of just about everything.  This is, however, nothing new.  The UN has been an easy target, especially for some Republicans, for a long time, because like any unwieldy international organization comprised of member states with very different priorities and interests it will probably never be as efficient or effective as we would like.

But there is simply no question that the UN serves many vital functions that are fully consistent with key U.S. interests and values.  For that reason it is essential that the U.S. continues to play a leadership role in the UN, which we were instrumental in creating seven decades ago, in a manner that strengthens the institution.

At times I have expressed my own frustrations with the UN.  It wastes inordinate amounts of time debating and adopting redundant resolutions that accomplish next to nothing.  It has suffered from personnel policies that make it difficult if not impossible to fire under-performing employees.  It pays its officials at rates that dwarf what many could earn in their own countries.  It has been too slow to implement procedures to ensure transparency and accountability, including for whistleblowers who have suffered retaliation for exposing corruption and other misconduct. 

So there is no dispute that the UN needs to do better.  The new Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, knows this as well as anyone and he has made clear that he is going to do his best to put the institution on a road to real reform.     

But, of course, he cannot do that by himself.  He is empowered only to the extent that the UN member states, and particularly the permanent members of the Security Council, support him. 

Attempts by past the Secretary Generals to implement reforms have been partly stymied by resistance from governments that prefer the status quo.  While I believe the prospects for UN reform have never been better, that will not be possible without the active leadership and skillful diplomacy of the United States. 

And that is where our UN Ambassador comes in. 

I have known many of them, although I was only seven years old in 1947 when Warren Austin of Vermont, nominated by President Truman, became our third UN Ambassador. 

The position of U.S. Ambassador to the UN has also been held by such accomplished people as Henry Cabot Lodge, Adlai Stevenson, George H.W. Bush, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Thomas Pickering, and Madeleine Albright.  Each was recognized and widely admired, across the political spectrum, for his or her depth of foreign policy experience and wisdom. 

Today we are considering the nomination of Nikki Haley to be the next U.S. Ambassador.  Governor Haley’s record as Governor of South Carolina was decidedly mixed, and I will not take time today to discuss that record.  What is most relevant here, however, is her dearth of experience for the job she has been selected for.  That is not so much a criticism of Governor Haley as it is of President Trump, as there are certainly well qualified, seasoned diplomats in the Republican Party who would be well received by members of both parties. 

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